Need cash? Ask Obama

By Rebecca Davis 25 October 2011

It’s well known that US President Barack Obama makes it a habit to read ten letters addressed to his office every night. But a new book about the practice reveals that he sometimes goes a step further – sending the writers money. By REBECCA DAVIS.

Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, by Washington Post writer Eli Saslow, documents Obama’s nightly routine in the White House: sitting down to read ten letters selected at random from the total of 20,000 sent to his office every day. Initially, Saslow writes, these letters largely expressed post-inauguration congratulations. As Obama’s presidential term has progressed, however, and the US economy has weakened, the tone of the letters has become progressively more downbeat. Saslow notes that letters now are sometimes addressed to Obama as “Dear Jackass”, “Dear Moron” or “Dear Socialist”.

Nonetheless, Obama ploughs on, reading the woeful tales of America’s joblessness and homelessness, telling Saslow he frequently feels “pained that I can’t do more, faster, to make a difference”. On occasion he responds with a handwritten note – some of which end up for sale online.

Sometimes, however, he does “do more”. Many times, reportedly, he has forwarded letters to specific government individuals with handwritten notes requesting that they intervene. But “on more than one occasion”, he told Saslow, he has written personal cheques for people. “It’s not something I should advertise, but it has happened,” he said to Saslow.

As the Huffington Post notes, this intriguing assertion raises more questions than it answers. “Does he send a cheque signed ‘Barack Obama’ directly to the individual in need, or does he send the money to a bank or company on the person’s behalf?” they ask. Either way, it’s an initiative South African politicians might want to consider to raise their popularity. Right! DM

Read more:

  • The letters that make Obama long for his community-organizing days, in the Washington Post

Photo: Reuters.


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